DECATUR — Illinois gardeners and livestock owners have formed mutually beneficial relationships through a free online manure exchange program.
The Illinois Manure Share introduces farmers who have an abundance of livestock manure to those who need it, The (Decatur) Herald and Review reported.
Charlie Sibthorp tends to large garden and 23 egg-laying hens near Warrensburg. He said the small flock doesn't produce enough manure to fertilize his 65-by-100-foot garden, so he uses the Manure Share.
"The program is connecting people who have excellent soil, especially organic soil, with those who need it," said soil scientist Ellen Phillips.
Manure is an organic material that produces rich soil and allows famers to fertilize their crops in a more environmental way. The general population also benefits from the exchange because less chemicals end up in the water supply.
The Manure Share also offers tips for composting and transporting manure.
Fresh manure can be detrimental to gardens, Sibthorp said. He lets his composted manure set for a year before he uses it. After a few months, enzymes, bacteria and bugs break down the manure and other raw materials and turn it into earthy, soil-like dirt.
The manure exchange program is offered through the University of Illinois Extension. It was developed in Chicago to relieve horse owners of the large amount of feces their animals produce.